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She Leads Texas: Celia Israel

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Inspired by her mentor, Ann Richards, Rep. Celia Israel has served in the Texas House of Representatives since 2014. This is how she leads Texas.

By Anna Lassmann

Celia Israel

Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, was first introduced to politics by former Texas Governor Ann Richards in 1989. She’s been a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2014 and still feels inspired by her mentor, Richards. In her role at the Texas Legislature, Israel hopes to be honest with people and bring a sense of humor to the table. This is how she leads Texas.

Her mornings: “I get up early and read all the major newspapers, at least the headlines, to see what’s happening. … I prepare for hearings, attend hearings. The Texas Legislature usually begins at 10 o’clock in the morning, and depending on the time of session, it could go from 10 a.m. to noon or 10 a.m. to 10 o’clock at night. And then the committee that you started with in the morning has to finish what it started. … So, it makes for longs days the further we get into session. It’s a difficult assignment, but the good thing is it’s all over on Memorial Day weekend.”

Her political inspiration: “I was inspired to get into politics by my political mentor, who was former Governor Ann Richards. … That was in 1989, when we were working on the campaign, and then 1990 [was] the actual election and then she took the oath of office in 1991 and that’s where I sort of was introduced to politics and public service. What she taught me was that you can be tough and have a sense of humor and that’s what I guess I’m known for, being pragmatic. … I’ve learned a lot from her and that’s what I’ve tried to carry forward in the years since.”

Her work with female legislators: “I’ve found that my female colleagues are hardworking, ethical and open to dialogue. And if I want to get anything done at the Texas State Capitol, I need all three of those. I need to work hard. I need to be upfront and not lie. And I need to be able to find some common ground with people who are very different from me. We’re all over the spectrum of background, so it’s an interesting mosh pit of background and personalities.”

Her time with the Girls Empowerment Network: “I was on their board for about six years. I mention them all the time because it’s the most rewarding community experience that I’ve had, and I liked being part of an organization that was supporting girls. I think we all remember what it was like to be 9 years old and unsure of yourself. Some positive reinforcement can be a big game changer.”

Her passion for volunteering: “I think it’s important because we were put on this earth to do good things. You weren’t put here to stay in your cubicle and be designed by your job. In my view, you were put on this earth to have a positive impact, whether that’s through volunteering as an individual with a cleanup project or whether that’s volunteering at the board level and raising money for good causes. It should feel good. It should feel genuine. I hope no one is doing it because they want to look good for other people. You should volunteer because you know you’re making an impact. And making an impact, I hope, is important to everyone in their lives.”

Her time with friends: “The best thing for me is being able to cook and have friends over and have a meal. But it’s hard to do. It’s hard to schedule because everyone’s busy. But I guess my most gratifying times are when I can throw a good meal together for friends and we can catch up over a glass of wine.”

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